Heart failure causes the heart to become too weak to pump blood to other parts of the body effectively. This serious condition may be treated with medication, but advanced heart failure may require a heart transplant or other intervention.
Weill Cornell Medicine offers exceptional care to help our patients live longer and enjoy a better quality of life.
Ventricular Assist Devices (VADs)
Mechanical cardiac assist devices can help patients with end-stage heart failure. The most common device is the ventricular assist device (VAD). VADs are used as a:
• Temporary support while the heart muscle recovers
• Temporary support while awaiting a heart transplant (sometimes referred to as “bridge to heart transplant”)
• Permanent support system for patient not eligible for a transplant.
How do VADs work?
The VAD consists of:
• A pump implanted in or near the upper part of the abdominal wall that is connected to the heart at two points. A tube carries blood from the ventricle to the pump. The blood is pumped through a second tube to the aorta or pulmonary artery, and distributed to the lungs or throughout the body.
• An electronic control system connected to the pump.
• A power supply (rechargeable batteries) connected to small batteries. Patients wear the controller on a belt and the batteries on a vest-like shoulder holster.
The left ventricle is the chamber responsible for pumping oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the aorta for transport to the rest of the body. Left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) take on the workload of the left ventricle, helping the heart to pump oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. As a result, all tissues and organs receive the blood supply needed.
The right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs, where it can receive oxygen. Right ventricle assist devices (RVADs) are commonly used in conjunction with LVADs — which is referred to as a biventricular assist device (BiVAD).
With a VAD, patients feel better, and are able to live more active, normal lives.
Why choose Weill Cornell Medicine for VAD implementation and management?
Our surgeons specialize in implementing a wide variety of VADs, selected and tailored for each patient and specific situation.
A multidisciplinary team — comprised of surgeons, cardiologists, nurses, physical therapists, psychiatrists, nutritionists, and social workers — assures comprehensive care in the hospital and afterward.
For patients awaiting a heart transplant, Weill Cornell Medicine surgeons collaborate with heart surgeons at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center — a renowned center for heart transplantation — to offer one of the largest VAD programs in the nation.
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I am interested in participating in a clinical trial for cardiac conditions. Where can I learn about the current trials at Weill Cornell Medicine?
I would like to learn more about my specific condition and treatment options. Which resources do you recommend?
We recommend visiting the Weill Cornell Medicine Cardiothoracic Department website, as well as the American Heart Association.
What happens after I schedule my heart surgery?
Once you and your care team decide that surgery is the best treatment plan for your condition, you will schedule a pre-surgical appointment, which takes place at M404.
What happens during the pre-surgical appointment?
During your pre-surgical appointment:
• Your nurse practitioner will explain what you can expect for your specific surgery and hospital stay
• Your nurse practitioner will review your current medications
• You will sign a consent form for the surgery and potential blood transfusion (Please note: Most patients do not receive blood transfusions during surgery, but we are required to have you sign this consent form, just in case you do need a transfusion and are not awake at the time to give your consent. ALL blood is stringently tested for HIV, hepatitis, and cytomegalovirus.)
• You have the opportunity to ask questions
• You will receive a small bottle of antibacterial soap
This process generally takes two to three hours.
What do I need to do to prepare for the surgery?
You will be given instructions as to which medications you should stop taking to prepare for surgery.
On the night before your surgery, shower using half the bottle of antibacterial soap. On the morning of the surgery, before you come to the hospital, shower using the rest of the soap.
Do not eat or drink after midnight the night before your surgery. You may take your medications that the nurse practitioner approved you to take the morning of the surgery, which just a small sip of water.
Where should I park for my surgery?
Parking is available in front of the 68th Street circular entrance to the hospital. There are also several parking garages in the immediate area.
Parking is only validated on the day of your hospital discharge, not on the day of your pre-surgical appointment.
What should I bring for my surgery?
Please be sure to bring your:
• Insurance card(s)
• Pajamas, robe, and slippers
Generally try not to bring too much to the hospital, because you probably won't use a lot of these things and will just have to carry them home.
Please do not bring any jewelry or expensive electronics with you for the first hospital day. Your family and friends are welcome to bring those items once you are awake and in your room.
Where should I go to check in for the surgery?
Please check in at Greenberg 3-West (Same-Day Surgery Unit), which is on the third floor of the Greenberg Pavilion, using the "G" elevators.
If you are the first case, please check in at 6 a.m. If you are the second case, please check in at 10 a.m.
How long does surgery usually take?
The usual length of the actual cardiac surgery is about three and a half to four hours. However, the total length of time your family member will spend in the operating room is longer. Much of that "extra time" is spent preparing you for surgery and getting you ready to go to the recovery room (PACU) or ICU following surgery.
Where should my friends and family members wait during the surgery?
During your surgery, your family and friends should wait in the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute Atrium. Please tell them to check in at the front desk so that they can be contacted when your surgeon calls.
If the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute Atrium is closed at the time of your surgery, your family and friends may wait in the smaller waiting area right outside the Cardiothoracic ICU (4-West).
There is also a café on the first floor of the hospital, directly opposite the information desk and down the hall from the front door on the left, which is open at all times. This café sells coffee, tea, and a variety of food.
Where can I learn more information about heart surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine?
Please download our extensive Guide to Surgery.
I have questions about my insurance coverage. Who should I contact?
Please see Insurance Questions or call (212) 746-5161.